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Holiday Help: Getting Started – Part 1 of a 4 Part Series

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Holiday Help: Getting Started  –             Part 1 of a 4 Part Series

This is the time when we cling to the last glimmer of summer. The kids are back in school. The big box stores have, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise available.  But why do ‘they’ rush the holidays so much?  It’s time to start thinking about the holiday season you think.  Why can’t Thanksgiving goodies not appear on shelves until October 31st? Why can’t the Christmas and Hanukkah season kick off on Black Friday?  After all there is the better part of four months to do all that needs to be done to make the holidays special and create memories.   Why rush life away?  Why all the commercialism? Why be a pawn of some number crunching merchandiser tucked away in a big box home office?

Being relatively new to retail sales, I initially held firm to the thought that the end of one fall holiday signaled and actually permitted the next fall holiday to appear on shelves. During my first few years, I had a new shop in an developing area and witnessed people came in starting the last week in August ‘to just look’.  They indicated they’d ‘be back.’  Didn’t see them until the New Year.

I slowly came to realize that ‘just looking’ in August is code for ‘I-want-to-get-my-holiday-gift-giving-shopping-done-but-I’m-not-admitting-that-to-anyone-yet’ and their lives really did get so busy where they didn’t have time to come back until the Christmas wrapping papers had been recycled.

The truth is both retailers and consumers have pushed and pulled one another to the current reality where you can (and should) do your fourth quarter shopping by early September.

The 100 days will fly by and be filled with lots of “to-do’s” including those that get added to your list at the last minute by other people.  Gifts To Go has developed a four part approach to helping you stay sane by pacing yourself looking at the entire holiday season and developing your personal plan of attack. We’ll publish one of the four parts each month now through early December.

The series posts will appear as follows:

  • September 2016 – Holiday Help: Getting Started
  • October 2016 -Holiday Help:  Budgeting, Shopping and Traveling
  • November 2016 –   Holiday Help: Shipping and Packing
  • December 2016 – Holiday Help:  Gift Wrapping and Presentation

And now, let’s get started .   This month’s task is to sit quietly with a pen/paper or iPad and think through each of the bullet points we raise below. Once you have your responses sit with your significant other (and anyone else with the clout to alter your plans) to combine your thoughts and resolve any differences.  Here goes:

  • To whom will you be giving gifts?  Immediate family/household? Extended family within an hour’s drive?  Extended family living more than an hour away? Friends? Kids’ friends? Co-workers? Teachers? Service providers such as hair stylists, delivery persons, landscapers, drivers?

It’s too early to be overly-concerned about what those gifts will be, you want to determine who gets gifts first and then work on Budgeting and Shopping in Part Two.

  • Where will you be spending the holidays (consider Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah)? Will your significant other and other immediate family members be with you? Will you be the host? Will you be traveling? Will you need a pet-sitter? Do you need extra chairs for the dining room table?  Do you have sufficient place settings? Will you want to repaint the living room?  If you’re not at home, will you be staying with friends or family or hotel? Will inclement weather possibly affect your plans?  Do you have a celebratory back up plan if so?

It’s important to iron out the ‘where’ and ‘who’ question with everyone who might have an opinion that could impact you (spouse, college aged children, in-laws, close friends).  Don’t wait for them to start the conversation with you.  We recommend getting this one settled early as we’ve seen too many holiday plans turned upside down and budgets blown when a sister and her new husband decide at the last minute they were joining you at your home.

  • Will you participate in multiple celebrations?  In different locales?  Are you aware of all the people involved in each festivity?  When will each occur? Will you need a ‘divide and conquer’ plan where you and your significant other are in different locations on the holiday due to family/friends in different areas? Will you then celebrate again when you reunite?

When you’re comfortable you have identified and resolved the ‘who, where and when’ questions, start to tackle the ‘what’ question before we take your holiday planning one step further next month by establishing a budget and creating the to-do lists.

 

 

 

Can’t Thank Our Clients Enough!

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We are honored to have been voted one of  five Local Favorite Retailers in the City of Surprise and want to thank our shoppers and shippers for having faith in us and returning time and time again to purchase our products, use our services and to share life’s ups and downs in a friendly environment.  In our mind, that’s what being a local gift shop and post office is all about.

We accept this honor humbly along with what we both hope for and fear will be increased scrutiny and raised expectations.  Gifts To Go has intentionally developed slowly so as to get to know our patrons and to evaluate each step toward our ultimate goal of offering a comfortable, convenient gathering spot where life’s joys and sorrows are embraced within the context of local retail establishment.  So, while we’re proud today we’re also buckling down for the next steps along the development.  Thank you for your recognition and please continue to tell when we’re putting smiles on faces and if we should misstep along the way.

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Writing Spaces

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The Gift of Writing Spaces

Summers in the Valley of the Sun (metro Phoenix) mean slower sales and less foot traffic for retail establishments.  Our winter visitors have left us  and our residents manage their days around the heat and in accordance with available air conditioning. Most tasks are accomplished in the early morning when it’s the coolest and nearly everyone is indoors during the 4pm – 6pm time slot when it is often the hottest.

This is the season I then clean up, re-organize and evaluate the winter season in terms of processes and products.  It  is also the time I gear up for the next winter season by selecting new products for the shop and for our custom gift baskets.  I also determine what additional equipment we need. As an aside, this year I anticipate we’ll be added a ribbon printer and another portable register.

I’m also ramping up our online presence (social media, website and blog) to be more responsive to our current and future shoppers and shippers.  This effort includes participating in a 20 part Everyday Inspiration Challenge from the WordPress folks.

Today’s challenge is to write about our favorite writing space; I have two.  I am most productive at the kitchen counter perched on a bar stool with an afghan under me (I’m just 5’4″ and like to peer down the laptop).  My alternate space is a handy pull out writing desk tray that husband Scott added to our gift shop register table a few years back.  I use that particular space nearly all day but generally for gift shop immediate tasks such as getting online orders, answering emails, working in QuickBooks, tracking and  crunching sales numbers and for placing supplier orders.

The kitchen counter space is my preferred writing space because it is generally free from distractions.  I keep either the television news or music on at a low volume for some constant level of background noise but never really focus on it.  The fact that I am out of the shop and post office also reduces distractions as I can’t glance at a post office trash can that needs emptying or a gift shop shelf that needs dusting or re-stocking.  It’s just me and my afghan booster seat, the laptop and my phone for time-blocking each writing task. Again, as an aside, that time-blocking thing doesn’t generally work as planned but it does stop me from wandering down different rabbit holes – especially when I’m doing anything in Facebook!

We will be given a follow-up task in a few days regarding our writing space(s); I look forward to seeing what that challenge holds.  Until then, happy gifting and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release: Small Business Saturday Book Fest & Toy Drive Launch

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 11,2014) Gifts To Go, located on the Bell Mar Plaza, announces a Small Business Saturday Book Fest and the launch of their annual toy drive to benefit the El Mirage Firefighter Charities on Saturday, November 29, 2014.

The Book Fest features discussions and autograph sessions with local authors, raffles and discounts. “Reading is fun,” says shop owner Tammy Fraser, “and it is going to be a fun day for everyone. We have great authors scheduled and will offer out-of-the-ordinary specials including discounts hidden inside books” she shared.

John L Ketchum, author of the popular John Bodie Detective Series (Vengeance in Vallejo, Karaoke Killer and Where’s the I in I and J’s?) and Aubrey Finley Patriot Series (2020 Patriots Revenge and soon to be released, 2021 The Search) will discuss his nine published novels ($15.00), along with his military and investigative careers from 9am to 11am. Mr. Ketchum, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and recipient of prestigious military awards including two Purple Hearts, also coordinates three writers groups and is an active participant in others.

During the 10am to noon time period, Laura C Browne will be available. Readers throughout the country may recognize Ms. Browne for her work as a business coach, corporate trainer, speaker and non-fiction author helping others achieve greater career success. She will focus on Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom ($8.95), her delightful novel for girls ages 9-13 which has been praised by Publishers Weekly. Ms. Clark will donate a personalized copy of the book to the winner of a raffle held on November 29. The free copy will substitute a pre-teen’s first and last names in the role of Annie Clark in the title and throughout the novel. Additional personalized copies can be purchased for $49.95 and must be ordered in advance. Raffle tickets can be obtained by visiting Gifts To Go now through the Book Fest.

Multi-award winning time travel writer Ann Goldfarb will visit from noon to 2pm. Ms. Goldfarb, a former teacher, staff developer and school principal, is the author of seven mysteries for the teen to adult audience. Her books, including the recent The Time Borrowers ($11.95 to $12.95) are rich with science and history and include valuable study guides making them great selections for home and classroom reading.

Romance writer, Brenda Whiteside, will share the story behind the story of her six romance stories ($13.95 – $16.95) from 1pm to 4pm. In addition to novels Ms. Whiteside’s pens a frequent blog for her fans. Her works include Sleeping with the Lights On, Amanda in the Summer, The Morning After, Honey on White Bread and an anthology of short stories, “Warm Christmas Wishes”.

From 3pm to 5pm, Rev. Susan Henley, will share her spiritual expertise and books, Sara Beyond the Veil, A Spiritual Look at Dementia ($12.99) and Because of Sean, The Story of a Mother’s Courage ($13.99). Rev. Sue is an ordained Spiritual Peace Minister, counselor and Reiki Master. She can be found around the valley performing weddings, baptisms, funerals and helping her clients achieve a state of well-being.

The El Mirage Firefighter Charities have again partnered with Barnaby Street Shoppes, the retail incubator where Gifts To Go and the USPS Contract Postal Unit is located, to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys and books for local children’s holiday celebrations. Gifts To Go will provide an entry ticket to Laura C Browne’s raffle of a free, personalized copy of Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom to persons who bring in toys and books for the Firefighter Charities.

Barnaby Street Shoppes and Gifts To Go/USPS Contract Postal Unit are found next to the 5 & Diner Delux at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ. They are normally open Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm but have added Sundays from 10am to 1pm on November 30 and Dec 7, 14 and 21. Please direct questions to Tammy at 602 -403-0646.

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Can’t make it to our Small Business Saturday Book Fest?  No worries, we’re adding all these great reads to our website so you can browse and purchase online. And, as you know our USPS Contract Postal Unit will get your online purchases out to you the day your order is placed!

Caped Crusader Hits The Streets…And The Envelopes

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BatmanBat Sheet

Another USPS stamp that evokes a favorite childhood memory.  I recall jumping off the school bus and racing into the house to watch the fabulous Batman and Robin on my grandma’s color TV with my uncle.  It was a daily after school ritual.  Eventually led to my uncle and me making plaster of Paris molds of the caped crusaders in grandma’s laundry room.  A delightful time for me but I recall it didn’t end so well for him as there was residual plaster  problems in the laundry room.

I believe I’ve seen only one of the modern day Batman movies as I never moved from the after school TV show  to either comic books or the ComicCon era.  Nonetheless I’m captivated with the newest USPS stamp release and thought it worthy of a bit of blogging attention.

The following text is taken from USPS.com and speaks to the sheet details. “For 75 years, Batman has protected Gotham City from the forces of evil. Since his debut, he has become one of the most iconic super heroes in history. This year, the U.S. Postal Service® chronicles the evolution of the character, from his origins to present day.

This new issuance showcases eight unique designs in a sheet of 20 stamps. Four versions of the iconic DC Comics super hero are depicted from four eras of comic book history. In addition, there are four incarnations of the Bat-Signal.

The first row of stamps features Batman with his fists clenched. This muscular, determined Caped Crusader has spent the Modern Age of Comics defending Gotham City from its most notorious villains.  The second row of stamps displays Batman dramatically staring up at the Bat-Signal. By the Bronze Age of Comics, artists had encased the super hero’s spare black bat emblem with a yellow oval. The insignia became the crime fighter’s trademark.
The third row of stamps shows Batman swooping into the frame with his cape flying behind him. The image, from the Silver Age of Comics, accentuates the super hero’s signature glowing white eyes and utility belt. The bottom row of stamps highlights Batman as first envisioned by creator Bob Kane during the Golden Age of Comics. The super hero’s black cape and cowl and gray suit formed his iconic visual identity.

A column on the left side of the sheet includes four different circular stamps. Each is affixed with a different Bat-Signal, the spotlight Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon sent into the night sky to summon Batman.

The background illustration features a silhouette of Batman standing on a bridge with the skyline of Gotham City looming above him. The flip side of the sheet features two illustrations of Batman and text about the history of the character.

Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp sheet. ”

My favorite portion of the sheet is the left hand selvage side that shows a shadowy Batman in the central Gotham City, watching and protecting.  And, the four different circular Bat-Signals are cool additions to the sheet but I do caution all purchasers to be sure to avoid discarding these simple, round stamps as they appear at first to be paper-art stamps that child might use rather than true Forever stamps but they are in fact Forever stamps.

 

Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Shipping A Box But Didn’t Know Where To Get The Answer

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The delightful season of fall is upon us – most of the country will be changing clocks next week, the marathoners will hit the streets of NYC, pumpkins are being carved and those of us in the Valley of the Sun are enjoying temps in the 80s and counting down the remaining 100 days to SuperBowl XLIX.

Fall signals the stressful season of ‘prepping-for-The-Holidays’. Packing and sending The Holiday gifts is a frequent, yet easily remedied, source of stress for many.  At Gifts To Go it is our ardent wish to eradicate this stress and we’re starting with this post.  In the spirit of continuous improvement and community involvement, we look forward to your comments.

The Box

Aside from sturdy and clean, choose a box that allows space inside to appropriately cushion for the contents.  If re-using a box choose one that provides a clear space for the addresses and remember it will be weakened the more times it is used.   Avoid boxes that have lots of text or product pictures as it will make it harder for the delivery personnel to find and read the address. Do not re-use bleach or alcohol boxes such as the kind used at Sam’s Club or Costco. Draw several lines through any earlier barcodes.  Your role as the box packer is to make it as easy as possible for everyone who touches your box along the way to handle it properly.

Gifts To Go sells a small selection of new sturdy boxes ranging in price from $0.95 (6″ x 6″ x 6″) to $1.75 (12″ x 12″ x 12″).  The postage on these boxes will be based on the package’s weight and the distance it is being sent in conjunction with the speed of delivery.

USPS offers and Gifts To Go stocks several Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes for free.  Regardless of the shipment’s weight or US delivery location, the postage of these items is standardized and ranges from $5.75 to $44.95.  See the details below. Pricing is for US destinations but Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes can be used internationally.  Global rates apply.  Also, the top loading large Flat Rate Priority box postage is discounted $2 when sent to US military service personnel.

Envelope Box Size Price Chart

A Word About USPS Delivery Services

USPS offers three delivery services for items weighing 13+ ounces:  Standard (less expensive but slower  includes package tracking online), Priority (2-4 day delivery speed in US, more expensive, includes package tracking online and $50 insurance) and Priority Express (generally overnight delivery in US, most expensive, includes packing tracking online and $100 insurance).

While boxes of all shapes are acceptable for USPS shipping, the measurement of the length of the box plus the measurement around the widest portion of the box must be less than a total of 130″; for Priority or Priority Express shipment the total of length plus widest portion must be less than 108″.  The weight limit of all parcels is 70 pounds.

Prepping Box Content

Keep in mind that alcohol or anything that contains alcohol such as perfumes or bug sprays cannot be shipped as alcohol is flammable.  Liquids can be sent but should be wrapped in plastic in case they leak and then cushioned. To the extent possible distribute the contents’ weight evenly as this will help reduce the number of times the box is dropped or mishandled. Cushion all contents and remove empty space with extra filler.  Generally rolling soft items is a more efficient packing strategy over flat folding.

Place a piece of paper with the sender’s and recipient’s addresses inside the box in the unlikely event the outer address is damaged beyond recognition.

Sealing The Box

Use tape that is at least 2″ wide and either clear or brown.  Avoid using duct tape which can become sticky.  Do not use string or twine which can become stuck in post office sorting equipment.  Keep in mind that tape will add weight that you’ll pay postage for so use only as much tape as needed to close the box.

Addressing The Box

Both the sender’s and recipient’s addresses should be legible and complete with full name, house number and street name (or PO Box number), city, state and zip code.  The sender’s return address is placed to the upper left side of the recipient’s address. Make sure the text is appropriate to the size of the box.  Either write directly on the box or affix a label.  If using a label secure all edges of the label so it cannot be torn off.  It’s a good idea to place a piece of tape across the address portions not just the edges of the label.

Need to verify the zip code?

A Word About International Shipments

The above guidelines are appropriate for international shipments.  Bear in mind that the number of persons who will handle your package before it is delivered is greatly increased given the greater distances so sturdy box, weight balancing, sealing and addressing are even more important.

Packages sent outside of the US must be accompanied by a US Customs Form.  There are two different forms; one for packages under 4 pounds and the other for heavier boxes.  At federal post offices, the USPS postal clerk will key in information based on a paper form that you complete and sign.  At Gifts To Go’s Contract Postal Unit we are operating with the newest USPS deployed system and do not have the ability to key in data.  We will direct you to a dedicated laptop where you will input the required information, including weight, value and a description of the contents.  We will be available to assist you with this process which will generate a paper customs form with a bar code specific to your package.

Each country has specific prohibitions, restrictions and limitations as to the type and quantities of materials that are acceptable for delivery.  Before preparing any international shipment, be sure to check the requirements of the country to which you are sending.

Check international shipping requirements by country.

We look forward to a season of stress free shipping and are happy to help with your questions or concerns.  We are increasing our daily supply of flat rate boxes and envelopes so come by for yours at your convenience.  We are open Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p; will be open on November 11, 2014 which is a USPS holiday.  We will extend our days of service after Thanksgiving by including a few Sunday hours through Christmas.

 

Kiddos Summer Boredom Stressing You Out? Register for Not All Monsters Are Bad Storytelling & Painting Event

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NEWS from Gifts To Go

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Tammy Fraser
602-403-0646

ACCLAIMED ARIZONA CHILDREN’S AUTHOR DEBUTS NEW BOOK AT WEST VALLEY EVENT

SURPRISE, Arizona (July 7, 2014) Conrad Storad, acclaimed Arizona author of more than 50 children’s science and nature books will debut his newest release, Monster in the Rocks, in the west valley on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at a children’s event.

The event will start at 1pm at the Barnaby Street Shoppes on the Bell Mar Plaza at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, Arizona. Described as a C.U.R.E (creative, unique, relaxing and educational) for summer boredom, this event is the collaboration of Gifts To Go and Painting 4 Fun, both resident businesses of Barnaby Street Shoppes.

Monster in the Rocks educates children about desert creatures, particularly the Gila monster, and reinforces the importance of staying safe by obeying moms and dads. The book also challenges stereotypes as the real troublemaker in this entertaining tale isn’t the Gila monster after all.

Mr. Storad will read to participating children at 1pm then sign a copy of the book for each child to take home. Children will then join an instructor led stroke-by-stroke class to create an acrylic painting of their own Gila monster on an 8” x 10” canvas.

Parents and guardians of children aged 4 and older are welcome to register for the event while seats are still available. The $25 cost of the event includes the educational storytelling with Conrad Storad, an autographed soft cover copy of Monster in the Rocks, painting instruction and the child’s Gila monster painting ready for hanging or display.

For more details or to register visit either the Gifts To Go or Painting 4 Fun Facebook pages. The Events section on these pages includes a Find Tickets link that provides the details. Alternatively, call Tammy Fraser at 602-403-0646 or Dianne Gibson at 623-889-4439 for more information.

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